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Jack Dromey, T&G union
"What we do not want is an outcome where 1,000 Clyde workers lose their jobs"
 real 28k

The BBC's Andrew Gilligan
"Some of the most substantial and secretive jobs in the country"
 real 56k

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
"There is a problem of over-capacity and this has to be tackled"
 real 28k

Friday, 4 August, 2000, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
'Private' nuclear base claim denied
Sub and tugs at Faslane
The MoD is conducting a review of operations
The government has dismissed claims that it is planning to privatise the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, home to the UK's fleet of Trident nuclear submarines.

Negotiations are under way with a private contractor, Babcock, to take over maintenance and repair work.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said it was "sensible" to begin "breaking down the barriers between the public and private sector".

Unions are seeking assurances amid fears that the move could lead to 1,000 job losses among the 8,000-strong workforce currently employed by the MoD.

We want the MoD to explore, with us, public sector solutions that would deliver for the navy, for the taxpayer and for Clyde workers

Jack Dromey, T&G union
Opposition parties have also voiced concern and have accused the UK Government of putting profits before safety.

Mr Hoon confirmed that the MoD was in talks with Babcock engineering group about contracting out some services but insisted that talks were still at an "early stage".

He told the BBC: "There is this problem of over-capacity in the dockyards in general and it is something that needs addressing.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
Geoff Hoon: "There is a problem of over-capacity"
"It's something that, frankly, the unions themselves have recognised.

"They issued a statement after the meeting that took place as long ago now as 12 June in which they recognised there is a problem of over-capacity in warship maintenance and support and this has to be tackled.

"These early discussions are part of tackling that problem."

Officials have been carrying out a comprehensive review of naval bases across the United Kingdom and concluded that they were operating at almost 45% over-capacity.

The BBC has learned that proposals to shut down one of the bases were rejected as politically unacceptable.

However, the government was still seeking to make savings of about 200m by passing control of support and maintenance to private contractors.

Private sector

Jack Dromey, national organiser of the T&G, conceded there was over-capacity at Britain's naval bases.

However, he said: "Our message to ministers is this, do not rush to a private sector judgment. Do not make the mistake of the Tories - public bad, private good.

"We want the MoD to explore, with us, public sector solutions that would deliver for the navy, for the taxpayer and for Clyde workers.

"What we do not want is an outcome where 1,000 Clyde workers lose their jobs."

Four nuclear subs are based at Faslane
At present almost all the 8,000 workers at Faslane are employed by the MoD.

Outlining proposals for the contract, Dennis Richmond, head of Babcock facilities management, said: "Operational ship and submarine work would be included.

"We envisage handling nuclear work such as checks, tests, maintenance of the submarines' reactor plant,"

The company, which operates the Rosyth naval base in Fife, said a contract could be signed next year, with Babcock assuming control at Faslane in 2002.

The Scottish National Party's defence spokesman Colin Campbell said: "The people of Scotland have consistently voiced their disapproval to weapons of mass destruction being based on the Clyde at all.

"They will be alarmed at the prospect of a private company being given control over the security and maintenance of nuclear weapons."

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See also:

03 Aug 00 | Scotland
Faslane radiation fears
10 May 00 | Scotland
Sheridan denies Trident charges
14 Feb 00 | Scotland
150 held in Trident protest
17 Jan 00 | Scotland
Judges to examine Trident case
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